HARTFORD, Conn. — The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) has released new mask and COVID guidance to help school districts navigate making decisions on mask-wearing in schools.
The department said school districts should consider the new recommendations when considering maintaining a universal masking policy or making masks optional.
DPH suggests school districts develop and follow a routine disease prevention model.
In that routine model, DPH suggests one way to keep COVID-19 transmission low is to recommend all eligible students and staff get the COVID-19 vaccine and a COVID-19 booster shot, if and when appropriate.
Another recommended strategy DPH has for COVID-19 prevention includes supporting students and staff who choose to continue wearing a mask, even when some school policies say it's optional.
State health officials also advise students and staff to continue following COVID-19 transmission prevention and quarantine guidelines and isolation strategies as part of the routine model.
DPH suggests not including contract tracing and quarantining students and staff with lower risk close contact or in-school exposures into a routine COVID-19 prevention strategy. However, students, staff, and families should be notified of outbreaks that affect their classroom, grade, or the whole school, depending on the extent of the outbreak.
There are some considerations school leaders DPH believes should be addressed when developing a COVID-19 policy.
When school officials make changes to a district COVID-19 policy, DPH suggests providing acceptance to those who choose to wear a mask, as well as support for those who might be anxious to be in a situation where masks are not worn. One example would be with younger students who have little to no experience of being in school without people wearing masks.
DPH recommends local school officials develop a plan for handling possible surges and or COVID-19 outbreaks, such as implementing a universal masking policy on a temporary basis, which can be done at the classroom, grade, or school level depending on the extent of transmission.
Schools can also mitigate the effect of outbreaks by limiting mixing class groups and limiting outside visitors, DPH suggests.
In the case that an outbreak could worsen, DPH recommends providing guidance on social distancing and spacing, ventilation, cleaning, and communication.
Schools can offer COVID-19 testing using state-provided or purchased tests, DPH said.
The statewide mask mandate for schools comes to an end on Feb. 28.
"I do not want my children to have them on any more," Stephanie Bennett of Wallingford said to FOX61.
Bennett is the mother of a 9 and 3-year-old and she says enough is enough when it comes to children wearing masks.
"So we're making all these rules...I think it's taking away our freedom and damaging our children and teaching them to be fearful at a young age," added Bennett.
"I think it's silly and I think it's unnecessary and I think at this point, it's just a matter of procedure and kind of maintaining the status quo. We've been at this long enough, right? Let's get back to normal," Meghan Wininger of Meriden told FOX61.
Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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